When I teach “A Raisin in the Sun” I keep in mind that the setting and ideas are probably foreign to my students. With time and patience (and a few creative activities interwoven into the unit plan for A Raisin in the Sun) students leave my class understanding the themes and importance of this play by Lorraine Hansberry.
Engage students from the beginning with introductory activities.
Grape: Create a larger meaning of the play with the use of grapes. A raisin is but a dried grape. How do grapes dry? How are dreams like a grape? What happens to dreams if they turn into raisins? Use these concepts throughout the unit.
Time period: Cover the concept of how insurance worked. Provide students with a PowerPoint or send them on a web search concerning property ownership and segregation.
Vocabulary: In addition to normal vocabulary words, add words such as ‘segregation’ and ‘assimilation’ to broaden students' understanding of themes and symbols from the play.
Writing should be part of any language arts unit. Combine any of these ideas or use them separately.
Note taking: Students remember literature better when they take notes about what they read. Ask students to take notes independently or provide them with notetaking lists for each act. Small details, such as the Youngers sharing a bathroom or Mama’s plant, later turn into symbols.
Journaling: Students understand literature best when they relate to the material. If students can apply Beneatha’s confusion and anger concerning another child living in the apartment to their life, they will feel empathy toward her situation. Pose specific journal prompts concerning alcohol addiction or child labor laws.
Essays: Formal essays allow students to analyze situations from the play in a deep way. Provide possible topics and create prewriting assignments as well.
Review activities provide students with an opportunity to prep for their final test and for you to clarify any part of the play.
Literary terms: Students can apply most literary terms to “A Raisin in the Sun.” The play is complex and detailed enough that students can comb through the play finding examples of suspense (will Ruth have an abortion?) and conflict (Willy and Walter). This ensures that students have reread sections of the play but also that they understand the play on a deeper level.
Review guide: Review guides are very flexible. You can create one for students, require certain sections in them, or allow them to make their own. It is often helpful to begin them well in advance of the final test so students do not hurriedly complete them. Discuss the completed review guide with students to assure they have accurate information.
Formal assessments are a part of any teaching unit.
Quizzes: Give a quiz after every act or scene. Provide different types of questions on the quizzes to reach different types of learners. This will help you access what needs to be covered more or even retaught. The quizzes will also prove as valuable study guides for the students.
Final test: The final test serves as a way for you to measure what students learned and did not learn. This will be your feedback in tweaking your unit plan for “A Raisin in the Sun” for future use.